By: Julius Kullie Kanubah
The Legislature, as one of our core institutions of governance and an arrangement of democratic bargaining and conflict management, has and continues to have many shortcomings in exercising its core roles of lawmaking, representation, and oversight, amongst others.
The shortcomings should be expected because in newly democratizing countries as Liberia, citizens and public officials are still in the emergent phases of institutionalizing the democratic method after quarter century of brutal wars and more than a century of authoritarian rule, occasioned by lack of access to quality education and institutional practices.
However, for a sitting member of the legislature to engage in the continuing use of seemingly foul language on majority members of a particular Chamber of the legislature has the propensity to precipitate institutional checks and accountability, in our current dispensation.
The case of the complaint filed by Senator George Tengbeh of Lofa County against Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County must be seen within this context.
Since his deservedly overwhelming victory in a by-election to serve the people of Montserrado County as Senator, Darius Dillon, has used words that are seemingly problematic and which, when reviewed carefully, would probably amount to bringing the Senate into public disrepute.
Dillon is or should be immensely knowledgeable of legislative language given that he is probably one of the most experienced serving members of the legislature. Dillon worked as Chief of Staff in the Offices of former House Speaker, Representative Edwin M. Snowe and Senator Jewel Howard Taylor – the current Vice President of the Republic, who is also, in effect, the President of the Senate.
Dillon witnessed and experienced the removal of Representative Snowe as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Despite public debates and outrage about the constitutionality and morality of removing Speaker Snowe, in the end, Snowe was ousted through the required votes before he was finally buried into the dirty Snow of legislative politics. Snowe has remained buried in the dirty Snow of legislative politics.
Dillon also witnessed and experienced the politics of the Senate years ago. He was relieved of his post of by Senator Jewel Howard Taylor after a series of public verbal exchanges with some sitting members of the Senate, to which, the leadership of the Senate pressured Senator Jewel Howard Taylor to part company with him, because she stood in the difficult position of deciding to either condon verbal attacks on some Senators by her Staff or siding with the Senate to ensure institutional loyalty.
Whether right or wrong, in both cases, Dillon got to witness and experience the politics of the legislature from the Chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Legislature is never a perfect institution than an arrangement of political elite-bargaining, which is always, a messy process. Anything contrary of elite-bargaining can be dangerous.
It goes without saying that Dillon is on record for repeatedly and consistently characterizing the Senate as ‘rotten’, ‘useless’, and ‘spineless’.
Indeed, these are strongly loaded words, which, in effect, Dillon has used to refer to majority members of the Senate.
Dillon, essentially considers himself opposite of those words. He is not a ‘rotten’ Senator. He is not a ‘useless’ Senator. He is not a ‘spineless’ Senator. Rather, as Dillon has conferred unto himself: He is ‘The Light’.
This is no small designation given the Biblical implications. Remember the Christian Jesus Christ famously declared: ‘I am the light’.
To be precise, in John 8:12, it is written: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Further, in John 9:5, Jesus said: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
I will leave it to us all to think whether Dillon is ‘the light’ and by implications, the New Jesus Christ, of any kind.
The point here is, Dillon’s repeated use of the language of ‘rotten’, ‘useless’, and ‘spineless’ to refer to elected members of the Senate while referring to himself as ‘The Light’ needs to be seen as one that appears to continuously and deliberately cast aspersions on the Senate and Senators.
There are many different implications of such a use of a language by Dillon, depicting others as ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’.
Not only does it question and undermine the decision of voters of our various political sub-divisions who elected members of the Senate, but such a language as has been consistently used by Dillon, puts Senators in an increasingly tenuous and difficult position when dealing with the public and when dealing with their fellow legislators/parliamentarians/congressmen/congresswomen across the world as well as other international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
In this light and on the face of it, the intent of the letter by Senator George Tengbeh appears to be aimed at ensuring institutional checks and accountability regarding Senator Dillon’s repeated use of a language that calls into question and one that undermines the integrity of Senators and the Senate.
Whether we like it or not, we would feel utterly uncomfortable and deeply appalled if Senator Dillon refers to each of us as ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’ – whether in our position as a private citizen or as an elected public official.
These are the words he has repeatedly used on elected Senators who are or should be his fellow colleagues.
While I believe that Dillon deserved to have been elected and could deserve to be re-elected, his use of a language that clearly casts aspersions on fellow elected members of the Senate needs to be checked and he must be held accountable. Dillon cannot be ‘the light’ while his colleague Senators are ‘rotten’, ‘useless’, and ‘spineless’.
Will I want Dillon expel from the Senate? Like Senator Tengbeh, I would say, NO. Will I want Dillon to take another approach while maintaining his ambition for a Senate that he alone envisions, I would say, YES, although he would not achieve this alone as he has embarked on as a rational re-election strategy and tactic.
Will I want Dillon re-elected? Well, why not? He should be re-elected, if, he is what our people trust and deserve, just as our people trust and believe we deserve George Weah as President of our Republic.
But Dillon must not refer to himself as ‘the light’ while referring to other elected Senators as ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’. Such dichotomy is deeply paradoxical and polarizing with moral implications.
Wasn’t it the same Dillon that collected a controversial US$6,500 that was appropriated in the National Budget by his very colleagues whom he sees as ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’? Why was the money collected by Dillon not ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’?
Of course, US$6,500 or whatever the exact figure is, can never be ‘rotten’, ‘useless’ and ‘spineless’ even if it was appropriated by Senators who Dillon calls ‘rotten’, ‘useless’, and ‘spineless’!
That is the Dillon Dilemma. And it is, certainly, our national dilemma.